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St. Pete City Council to vote on ten programs geared to boost South St. Pete

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council will vote on a resolution supporting ten items aimed at improving conditions on the Southside at its meeting Thursday. The items are recommended by the Citizens Advisory Committee to be funded through the first round of appropriations from the newly created Southside Community Redevelopment Area.

Five of the proposals would use county-approved Tax Incremental Funds to provide direct grants to businesses, property owners and residents within the Southside CRA.

An Affordable Multifamily Housing Development program would provide yearly property tax rebates for up to fifteen years on increases to property taxes for those who develop new or substantially renovated affordable multifamily housing.

The maximum award for this project is $50,000 per project and must be approved by City Council. Projects must meet the city’s standard of affordable housing defined as households with an income of 80 percent or below the medial household income. Those numbers are based on the Florida Housing Finance Corporation’s SHIP program.

The City Council item Thursday also includes a Residential Property Improvement Grant program that would reimburse applicants for eligible exterior and interior improvements to affordable or market-rate residential housing. Emphasis would be put on projects that would extend the economic life of a structure.

The maximum grant per unit is $10,000 with a maximum $90,000 per project. Applicants must invest a minimum of $10,000 to qualify for a grant. This project is intended to supplement a grant program already available through the city in order to incentivize major rehabilitation programs in the CRA where blight is a consistent problem and weighs heavily on low property values.

Under the proposal a Commercial Site Improvement Grant would also be available to commercial property owners who upgrade their building’s exterior visible to the public. Applicants can receive one of four matching grants of up to $20,000. Properties listed on the Local Register of Historic Places could also be eligible for matching grants up to $40,000 if the work complies with the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance.

A similar grant program would be available to commercial property owners making improvements to the interior of property.

The final grant program provides up to $50,000 for projects that enhance established business districts within the Southside CRA by either redeveloping, decreasing vacancy rates, adding to the tax base, creating jobs, leveraging private sector investment or improving the quality of life through removal of blight. This grant would be part of a Public Private Partnership.

The other five programs either anticipate using TIF revenue, but would not necessarily do so each year or support existing programs and partners within the CRA.

A CRA grant matching program would provide a local match for federal, state and other grant applications for programs part of the Southside redevelopment plan. Allocations for these grants would be determined either annually or as needed and would have to conform to the county’s policy governing use of Tax Incremental Funds.

A Property Acquisition and Preparation Program would use a combination of city and TIF revenues to buy properties within the CRA to promote housing, economic development and community revitalization. The program could also include demolishing existing structures or relocating utilities.

Another program would create a South St. Pete loan pool available to residents and businesses within the CRA. The program is intended to ensure residents and business owners are able to obtain conventional loans.

A program called “Paint Your Heart Out” provides funding to help residents and businesses paint the exterior of their structures. It encourages partnership with groups like Habitat for Humanity, Leadership St Pete and the Dream Center. Funding amounts would be determined annually.

And finally, a Workforce Readiness and Development Program would provide annual funding to educational and job training providers to increase job readiness and opportunities for CRA residents. Examples of eligible entities include Career Source, Pinellas Technical College and St. Petersburg College.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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